The Book of Fire

The Book of Fire

Second Edition

By William H. Cottrell, Jr.

Mountain Press,

softcover $14

“Of design, the earth was created to provide its own food from its own waste…” – Plato

The dry months will return and now is the time to evaluate your “place in the woods” for fire risk: fuel and its potential behavior, slope, and wind direction. The Book of Fire combines concepts from chemistry, physics, ecology and meteorology in a vividly illustrated explanation of our oldest discovery. With contributions from forestry and national park biologists, it has valuable information for our lives in the wildland interface.

With minimal text, Cottrell takes the reader first through familiar territory of candles, burning toast and failed campfires to pictorially explain simple chemical reactions and energy transfer. Continuing to fire, flame and combustion, then anatomy and aftermath of a wildland fire, the author has a knack for translating the complex mystery with accurate graphics and simplified text.

Learn that fire spreads four ways, how to evaluate a firescape, and that a firebrand is flaming aerial material transported out of a main fire. This is the type of spark you must be vigilant about (and not allow it to ignite your roof) during a controlled burn. A complete glossary and helpful website list rounds out this useful book.

As understanding increases, curiosity and respect for fire’s power increase as well. At the least, The Book of Fire will improve your woodstove fire building skills in these remaining chilly days of spring.

Reviewed by Ruthie Thompson-Klein